Without Freedom of Representation there is No Democracy
A most interresting research paper published by the Library of Parliament, Political and Social Affairs Division, August 1993
THE EFFECT OF POPULIST DECISION-MAKING ON REPRESENTATIVE DEMOCRACY
….most states must resort to a representative system for the sake of efficiency. If the system is to be democratic, it must incorporate principles of political equality and government by consent. Constituents must be accorded equal representation in Parliament and representatives must be accountable to the electorate through periodic elections.
The theory of representative democracy consistent with the provisions of parliamentary government rests on the belief that Parliament is a supreme assembly of representatives from all regions of the province or country freely debating(a) and determining public policy. Representatives elected by the people must be free to exercise their personal judgment and not be bound by constituency or group interests(b). Indeed, the Canada Elections Act makes it illegal for candidates to sign a document that would prevent them from exercising freedom of action in Parliament(c), and illegal for them to resign if called upon to do so by any person, or association.
Representatives in a parliamentary system of government are elected on their merits(d) and must act according to what they believe to be in the national interest(e); they must be leaders and educators(f), not simply delegates bound by particular interests(g). Further, representatives, unlike the average citizen, possess or will acquire the skills and knowledge to enable them to handle the complexity of decision-making in government. Representatives are better qualified to make such decisions because they are paid to dedicate their time to the functions of government, not necessarily because they are more intelligent or public-spirited than others.
The main role of citizens in a representative democracy based on a parliamentary system of government is to legitimize the system by electing members to Parliament. The people have the power to elect their representatives; if these representatives do not perform satisfactorily, the people have the power to replace them in the next election. Thus, the underlying theme of representative democracy is clear–power ultimately resides with the people(h); while not physically present in the governing body, they should be considered as present by proxy.
(a) “freely debating” (b) “free to exercise their personal judgment and not be bound by constituency or group interests”. Is not a political party a group? Then, are not political parties illegal in Parliament?
(c) “the Canada Elections Act makes it illegal for candidates to sign a document that would prevent them from exercising freedom of action in Parliament” Are not their party candidate papers a document vowing allegience to the party and the party leader?
(d) “elected on their merits”. Should not the primary merit of a Parliamentarian be the ability to represent his/her constituency? Just as justice is blind so representation in Parliament must be based on objectively, without fear or favour, regardless of identity, money, power, weakness or political influence.
(f) “must be leaders and educators” The ‘leader’ part is basically self explanatory, leader within their community, constituency. Educator leaves much ambiguity. Should not educator mean giving explanations and accounts as to the happenings in Parliament (Legislature)? Should not that education explain all sides of the debate? When has a politician given constituents such detail? Most education on matters political is left to the media, television and newspapers which is very telling when we see which media outlet has the major control over differing provinces and regions of the country.
(g) “not simply delegates bound by particular interests” This phrase seems to define the political party role in Parliament, to bind delegates (MPs) to a particular interest. If what this paper is saying is true, I have no reason to doubt it is judging by the source (Library of the Parliament of Canada), then political parties of all stripes must take a secondary role in Parliament and party whips must then be illegal. Members of Parliament must be free to ‘exercise their personal judgment’ in the democratic representation of their constituents.
” people do not find the present political system to be responsive to their needs and fundamental values, and thus many are prepared to advocate and support substantial changes to the political system if these would result in responsive and responsible political leaders ”
There is a dire and immediate need to change the “Political Culture in Canada”.